Eventually I was laid off from my internship. New management had come in and the truth was, if I were totally honest, I was a waste of their time and money. I was just too new, too inexperienced. It hurt my feelings a lot, and I questioned if I was worthwhile as a designer or if I was just kidding myself.
After several months of not finding a job, my parents took a leap and offered me a job at their lab repair company, TTI. See, I was paying my way through college this entire time and panicking because it was hard to find a designer position that would also give me flexibility to go to college part time. By this time TTI was located in a massive warehouse off of Outer Loop and was picking up steam.
I agreed, but said once I got them some business cards and promotional material they probably wouldn’t have any need for me. I made it clear I wouldn’t accept working for them if there was no need for me. I refused to get into the same problem I had during my internship.
What I found, however, was that every time I finished a project, there was another project needed. Soon I was creating mailers, presentations, faxes, letterhead, brochures, training manuals, even designing tradeshow booths. I bloomed as a designer there and graduated from college, accepting a full-time position as Marketing Manager.
This created a new problem for me. I had graduated and trained as a graphic designer, but knew next to nothing about marketing. Working in-house for a small business, I didn’t have the luxury of someone guiding me, telling me where to focus our efforts or how to craft our message.
I had graduated college, but the learning was just beginning.
I spent the next five years honing my understanding of marketing, specifically for small businesses which don’t have a lot of money, time or resources. Small businesses have special needs and special mobility that larger businesses don’t have. If marketing isn’t crafted to take advantage of their agility, innovation, speed and personal touches, then it’s a complete waste.
There’s a special art in crafting content to look Big but feel Personal. There’s a reason small businesses shouldn’t use tired old design templates like large businesses do. Even tradeshow booths should focus on small unique touches rather than expensive signs or larger booths. I was doing guerilla marketing before I’d ever heard the term.
TTI took off. We grabbed partnerships, distribution rights, we grew so large we had a whole counsel of managers who ran the company when mom and dad were out of town. I helped do everything from acting as chief morale officer to coordinating interviews. It was a busy time and I was being groomed to take over the company. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that, but I never got to considering that bridge before something drastic happened.
My parents filed for divorce.
TTI faltered as one might expect when a 50% partner/owner leaves. It was only father’s sheer willpower that kept it going. However, because of the blow, the company could no longer afford to keep most of its employees and I was, for the first time in eight years, without a job.
//Photo: Halloween party at the office. //